I started blogging in November 2004. I was working in London, and I wanted to find a way to tell the story of my new life without sending mass emails to friends who may or may not have been excited to hear from me. Blogs were a new type of website that allowed an individual to keep a public diary; it fit my need perfectly.
I started Jewish blogging a year later with a post simply titled, “My First Shabbat.” On Christmas Eve, 2004, I started telling the world that I was considering joining the Jewish people. What was initially a personal exploration snowballed into a new religious experience. My blog, “Accidentally Jewish,” became the nexus of my study and my Jewish community.
Without my blog and my online life, my Jewish world would have been much smaller — one synagogue and participating in the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago. The parameters of my world would be Reform, liberal, and local. The blog expanded my Jewish world. I communicate now with people from every stream of Judaism — from secular to ultra-Orthodox. We discuss conversion and our journeys, and we have created friendships and trust as we share Shabbat dinners in San Francisco, New York, and Tel Aviv and dance the hora at weddings on two continents.
Akira Ohiso and I have been friends since we first met online in 2006; I was studying for conversion and he was sharing his conversion stories and Jewish life on his blog, “Sushi Kiddush” (sushikiddush.blogspot.com/).The blogs of Jews by choice (JBC) are often grouped in a way that creates a bonding experience among cohorts of Jews by choice.
Seven years into my formal Jewish life, I now rarely identify as a Jew by choice; I’m simply Jewish. As our identities migrate from the experience of conversion, we need our cohort of bloggers less. We have few interactions with the next cohort, which includes Chaviva Gordon-Bennett (formerly Galatz), “Kvetching Editor” (kvetchingeditor.com), and we do not interact at all with subsequent cohorts of bloggers.
Twitter Magnifies My Jewish World
In 2007, Twitter changed my Jewish world and connected me to a global network of Jews of all stripes.
“In Tel Aviv, can’t find my host. No plan B.” I tweeted this on erev Shavuot in 2007. A few minutes later, Talia Klein sent me a direct message offering to pick me up on her way home from dinner. We’d never met and she wasn’t from my inner circle of JBC bloggers, but the Texas olah was part of my Jewish Twitter world. We met that night for the first time, and four years later I danced at her wedding. The story shows only one of many deep friendships I’ve developed with other Jews.
But Twitter serves another purpose: It is a clearing-house for information. I have been able to recommend conversion courses and introduce potential converts to rabbis who I feel would be good matches for the conversion process. I’ve also maintained and rekindled friendships with JBC bloggers from my cohort.
As an active commenter on Jewlicious, I once got into a debate about where Reform Jews learned the mitzvot. Since all of my study had been as a convert, I didn’t have an answer, but I saw an opportunity. Within a month, my rabbi and I were sitting in a café in Chicago with 15 young adults who were curious about mitzvot. The idea was simple: one mitzvah, one rabbi, and a group of Jews and non-Jews who want to learn. We’ve continued to meet in cafés and bars once a month since late 2006, and the program, Itza Mitzva, transitioned from its experimental stage to becoming an official program of the Sydney N. Shure Kehilla at JCC Chicago.
I have just returned from my eighth trip to Israel. The first was with the Jewish federation; five trips were to participate in ROI Community Summits; and two have been to visit friends I made online and during previous trips. Without my blog, I would likely have grown as a leader in the Chicago Jewish community, but blogging and tweeting have allowed me to build an international network that crosses nearly every stream of Judaism; social media gave me the connections to become a leader in that world. Without my blog, there would be no Itza Mitzva, no reason to participate in the ROI Community, and no purpose to seven of my eight visits to Israel.
I am grateful to a cohort of JBC bloggers and to the openness of the Jewish blogosphere that allowed me to create a network and then to step up and become a member and leader in our global Jewish community.email print